Orange County SC entered their Saturday-night showdown against rivals Phoenix Rising FC in need of a win, but so did their opponent. In the end, Orange County prevailed at Championship Soccer Stadium, with a 2-1 win.
The game was the first match between the teams since they met in the 2018 Western Conference Final at Orange County Great Park, with Phoenix pipping OCSC to the spot in the USL Cup Final. While that game had higher stakes, with both teams expected to be contenders but dealing with some struggles so far this season, this was a highly anticipated clash that should give OC some confidence.
Harry Forrester drew a penalty in the 26th minute after he was brought down from behind by Kevon Lambert. Aodhan Quinn slotted home the spot kick to give OCSC the lead 28 minutes in, a lead they would not relinquish.
Michael Seaton began the game on the bench, with Vinicius starting, and Seaton made an instant impact, entering in the 57th minute and scoring within 30 seconds upon entry, tapping in the cross from the right flank on the second try after it bounced off Darwin Jones.
The game opened up from there, with Jones and Quinn having chances for OC, and Patrick McLain forced to make a big stop to keep Phoenix off the board.
Even with the two-goal lead, the nerves entered a bit, especially when Adam Jahn scored for Phoenix in the 70th minute, with a header off a free kick on the edge of the box, to make it 2-1.
The result is a big three points for Orange County, who vault back above the playoff line in the USL Championship Western Conference, in 8th place at present. Given that both teams entered the match in need of a win, grabbing three points here is big, and that it comes against the opponent that gave OCSC the most grief in 2018 probably makes it a bit sweeter, too.
Still, there’s plenty of season ahead, and Orange County’s next match will be next Saturday, when they travel to Texas to take on San Antonio FC. SAFC are eight spots below OCSC in the standings at present, but the teams are actually just two points apart, so things are very, very tight in the West these days.
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